At a Glance...
!0/5 - 10/7 - Advanced Open Water Weekend
10/14 - STSC’s Annual U/W Pumpkin Carving Contest
11/9 - Enriched Air Nitrox course - meets at STSC - 6:30pm must register by 11/1
11/14 - 11/16 - DEMA Show
12/7 - STSC’s Annual Christmas Party/Open House - 6:30pm
12/26 - STSC goes to winter hours
January 1, 2019 - New Years Day Dive - 11:00am
February 7-11, 2019 Swim with the Manatees
April 20-27, 2019 Bimini, Bahamas
May 10-13, 2019 Dive Key Largo, FL
Pumpkin Time for Divers
By Rich Best (owner) and Don Oakley of Sunken Treasure Scuba Center
It’s almost Halloween and what’s a diver to do? Why, carve a pumpkin of course, but do it underwater. Make it a group contest for your Dive Center if you like but it really is an individual activity. Sunken Treasure Scuba Center in Central Pennsylvania has run it’s carving contest for many successful years and it is always a great time. Using lakes or rivers is best; the ocean close to shore would do if there are no severe currents or surge. Please don’t try it in a swimming pool; you’ll clog up the filters. Viz isn’t really an issue, you can still carve in rather low viz levels.
When carving with a buddy, discuss on land what each partner will do. Who holds what, who designs, who carves, who chases stuff etc.; just do normal prudent dive planning. Carving solo, you should work near another carver serving as a dive buddy.
You do your normal dive preparation and safety/buddy checks as usual but make one important change. You probably want to overweight yourself by up to 10 pounds to make up for the pumpkin and to keep yourself firmly on the bottom. That extra weight should be easily detachable like a weight belt.
As far as special equipment goes, you really need only two basic tools. A small pumpkin saw from a variety store and an ice cream scoop to scrape out the interior. A useful suggestion would be to make a bigger handle for the saw when you have 3 or 5 mil gloves on or just use a sabre saw blade glued into a dowel for a larger, easier to grip handle.
For the ambitious, you can make some more specialized tools that give you more control for advanced designs. An excellent interior scraper can be made from a hacksaw blade bent around a block of wood as shown. We sharpened the non-toothed edge to cut more easily. Choose your preferred radius of curvature.
To make holes or small curves, punches can be made from various diameter tubing and sharpened on one end. You will also need a blunt rod to poke out the pumpkin plugs during use because you can only make 2 or 3 holes before the tube plugs up. Small tubes (1/8 inch etc.) allow you to make lace-like patterns and fancy designs.
What, no knife? Although many do use knives successfully, we think it is much safer not to use a sharp blade underwater, and the little saws give you much more detailed control.
Tool control is easy with a 4 foot (1.5 m) line and just string the tools on it and tether it to your BC. This length allows tool separation and is not too long to tangle too much. A pouch could be used but in practice the tools can be lost easily, some sink, some float away.
Pumpkin selection is purely your own choosing, select a shape to match the design you choose. Remember, the big ones pose bigger problems in the water but make nicer displays once carved.
OK, so grab your pumpkin, your tools and make your entry. Once in the water it’s time to recapture your pumpkin and descend. Your buoyancy is not an issue, you are already over weighted and you want to be “anchored” on the bottom if possible, so deflate your BC, equalize and pick a spot with rocks or something to get your knees around, especially in a current. By this time you have discovered that your pumpkins’ buoyancy is another issue altogether. You have to quickly get the air out of the pumpkin. We like to use a large diameter punch to make two holes where eyes or ears will go and get air out one hole and water in the other. Be patient with this, you will know when most of the air is out, and you now have much better control of the still somewhat buoyant subject. You can now hold the pumpkin with one hand or arm to “cut” it. We have tried tethering or large mesh bagging the pumpkin and anchoring it to the bottom but it is easier to just keep hold of it with at least one hand; the bag or tether gets in the way of cutting. A mesh bag does come in handy to hold cut pieces you want to save like the lid or cutouts for ears etc. Has your patient slipped away from you yet??
After venting the air, you need to draw or scratch your design on the pumpkin to guide your cutting. You do have the venting holes where you wanted to cut out don’t you? Results really improve when you know exactly what face or design you want to carve before you enter the water. We like to practice drawing the face on paper before trying it on the actual pumpkin. Your choice, but you should know where to puncture, cut or saw. The purist in us says you should draw the design on the pumpkin underwater but it is actually much easier to draw the face you want with a permanent magic marker before going into the water. You must decide whether or not that’s cheating.
OK, we’re purists; now, what writes on pumpkin? – underwater! The answer to that is not trivial. What doesn’t work are: pencils, pens of all types, water soluble or permanent markers, dry erase markers, traditional wax crayons, grease pencils and virtually everything else we tried EXCEPT: a waterproof hard lumber crayon – it works to a limited degree. We used a red one but a blue or black would be much more visible. Binny & Smith makes a hexagonal, 5 inch waterproof hard lumber crayon for marking on wet or dry lumber and it does put a satisfactory mark on pumpkin skin underwater [insert photo 6]
If you choose, scratching the design in with a sharp pointed object like a knife or large nail works too but it is harder to control and you tend to overshoot your marking end points.
Next we like to cut out the larger access hole, whether it is a top hole as a traditional lid or a much less visible bottom hole leaving the stem to act as a handle. The bottom piece should be saved for attachment stock or just to be replaced under the pumpkin after carving. Putting a candle in the carved pumpkin is also easier with a bottom cut.
Now that you have interior access to the gooey stuff, take your scraper and cut the interior down to solid pumpkin. Here’s where the specialty scraper really shines. Underwater, the seeds and loose stringy stuff conveniently float out of the opening and then (surprise) the fish appear for dinner. It’s a pleasant diversion to watch them feed. Once fully scraped, you are ready for the real carving.
You could cut first and then scrape out the insides but you risk damage to the more fragile parts of your design as you scrape so we think it much better to scrape and then cut. Your mask may limit close-in visibility as you hold the pumpkin but you just have to do the best you can with this issue. Once you have the design cut out you could also scrape the surface of the skin to shade your masterpiece by revealing the lighter flesh under the orange skin to provide a cruise-ship vegetable carving touch. The choice is yours of course. If you want to get fancier still, you can use the bottom circle for raw material to attach ears or nose or other protrusions. Just bring along some 1 ½ inch construction screws and a short Phillips screwdriver to go from the inside out.
Be sure to check your buddy and your air occasionally, time really disappears when you carve.
Want a real challenge – try to do the whole exercise neutrally buoyant in the water column. We don’t think it can be done successfully without touching the surface or the bottom.
Once the carving is finished, all that’s left is the exit, story telling, bragging, judging and display of your masterpiece. The whole exercise is a fun way to expand your dive skills and get ready to celebrate Halloween with your own special creation carved entirely underwater.
Why do we do such a silly thing? Simple-because we can.
UPDATE - Advanced Open Water Weekend - UPDATE
In case you didn't notice Pennsylvania took a beating weather wise on Tuesday, Wednesday in just over two hours the river has climbed two feet and visibility is zero feet. With that in mind since Sunday is Sunken Treasure customer appreciation day at Dutch Springs we still plan to do the Advanced Open Water dives we had intended to do plus we'll add Peak Performance Buoyancy to the list. So that means you'll be able to choose 3 of the 4 dives we are doing towards your Advanced Open Water course. They include: Deep dive, Wreck dive, Buoyancy and Nitrox. Plans are to meet at Dutch Springs on the peninsula by 9:45. If you need gear from us you can pickup Friday between 5pm & 8 pm or Saturday between 10am & noon. As soon as we can we will put together a afternoon and evening to complete navigation and a night dive. If you have any questions contact Rich at 570.398.1458
STSC Annual U/W Pumpkin Carving Contest
October is here and by the 14th the air should be brisk and the leaves turning colors. October is the perfect time for that last Pennsylvania dive of the season. Sunken Treasure will help celebrate that dive with a pumpkin carve on Sunday, October 14th beginning at 12:00pm. The dive site will be the Jay Street Bridge in Lock Haven. STSC will supply the pumpkins, cider, and donuts. You supply the dive knife, imagination and skill.
Not sure you want to enter, come support those diving! We will be giving out awards/prizes, entry fee is $5.00.
Pre-registration is required by October 11th to participate in the dive, so we have enough pumpkins.